The Talent Crisis

The climate is changing, and I’m not talking about global warming. Our business climate is undergoing significant shifts. The talent pool is evolving, and businesses and individuals everywhere must adapt or face professional extinction.

What we’re experiencing is the cusp of a talent crisis, and we’re already seeing some major changes. And there are more ahead. It’s time for businesses – and recruiters – to deal with this new reality.

At its heart, the talent crisis means that organizations will not be able to find, attract, hire, and retain talent. This is due to five trends: more jobs than qualified people to fill them; the increasingly multigenerational work-force; the end of retirement as we know it; stronger demands for employer flexibility; and a big drop in average employee tenure. Taken separately, each of these trends presents a challenge. But now, as at no time before in our history, these trends are converging and strengthening.

I feel so strongly that the talent crisis is the single most important problem businesses face today that I’ve written a series of articles on this topic. This month, I examine the people – and skill set – shortage and what it means to our clients, to us, and to both of our bottom lines.

A Severe Skill-Set Shortage

We’ve all heard that according to government statistics, there will be more positions than people in the near future. Estimates vary, but experts agree there will be between 3 and10 million more jobs than people by 2010. Those are daunting statistics, but as a recruiter you know we’re already facing a shortage in 2007: a lack of qualified individuals for specific positions. A skill-set shortage is preceding the people shortage.

If you’ve spent a day recruiting in the healthcare or IT fields, you know what I’m talking about. We’re experiencing a severe skill-set shortage. Last month, I took a look at the job aggregators to gauge the demand for IT talent. There were over 38,000 openings for SAP FI/CO consultants on alone. But this problem is not unique to healthcare and IT. Many other industries are facing this same issue. Your market is in the midst of a skill-set shortage if:

1. Time to fill for some critical jobs lengthens to six months, a year, or more.
2. Companies start lowering their standards to fill positions, refusing to hold out for top talent.
3. Salaries are moving up. What was once the high end of a pay range will become the median income for hard-to-find skill sets.

The skill-set shortage is wide ranging. If it isn’t affecting you and your clients yet, it will, no matter the industry. For example, it’s estimated that 56% of unskilled laborers need to have the skills necessary to use some type of automated technology. This isn’t your father’s workplace: most ware-house laborers on the shipping dock today use wireless hand-held computers to process transactions. Statistics indicate that to keep up with the jobs generated by current economic growth, the United States will need 18 million new college graduates. That’s 12 million more than we’re currently graduating.

Clearly, this dilemma isn’t going away anytime soon. But as a recruiter, you’re uniquely positioned to use this trend to your advantage. It’s Recruiting 101, but it’s more important to our industry now than ever.

Become your clients’ trusted business adviser.

This is a problem that you can turn into a huge opportunity: clients need us now more than ever. Function as their guide, getting them on the right path in this marketplace. As a professional search consultant, you must shift from being just a tactical recruiter who finds talent to a business adviser who develops successful talent strategies.

Most important, work with your clients to streamline their hiring methods. In this talent-starved market, the entire interview process should take from one to four weeks. No longer. No exceptions. The longer the process takes, the greater the chances of top talent accepting another position. They’re in high demand and they know it.

Help your clients create a win-win interview process. They should ask thorough questions to establish whether or not a candidate has the right stuff to join their team, while at the same time selling candidates on their organization via the all-important Employee Value Proposition.

Developing a strong EVP is a critical part of the business-adviser relationship. The EVP clearly states all the reasons why a candidate would choose to work for a company as opposed to any alternative. If a client cannot articulate an EVP, it is essential that you help them to construct one, and quickly. Culture, benefits, work environment, compensation, office location, management flexibility, and much more can go into a winning EVP. And in this tight market, it can mean the difference between top talent choosing your client – or their competitor.

As a business adviser, try to ease your clients into a new way of thinking about job openings. If your client has an ongoing need for specific skill sets within their organization, propose a “continual opening.” This is a great way for you to deepen your professional ties to a client. Establish an agreement stating that anytime you encounter clearly defined skill sets in a candidate, you will bring that talent to the table. This is a symbiotic relationship, benefiting both client and recruiter. Your client will no longer be able to just hire when there is an opening. They need to hire when the talent is available.

Flexibility is increasingly the name of the game in hiring. Educate your clients on the virtues of flexibility in areas such as compensation, benefits, vacation, work schedule, and work location. This isn’t a market in which it’s wise to dismiss a candidate if she falls outside a given salary range, or wants an additional week of vacation. Encourage clients not to lose candidates over relatively minor negotiation snafus.

I recently began a global procurement search for a Fortune 100 company by sitting down with the client and determining how much money they’d lost by letting this critical position remain unfilled for two years. The hard costs and missed opportunity costs they’d incurred were staggering – millions of dollars. Once I’d helped my client see this clearly, it was amazing how flexible they became.

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Bring only impact players to the market.

In a talent- and skill-set-starved market, trying to fill those needle-in-a-haystack searches will inevitably lead to frustration and few placements. It can feel like you’re pushing a boulder uphill all day, every day. But you can make your job easier by returning to the talent-agent mentality. That’s right, the old “MPC” approach. In today’s competitive market, it’s the best bet to make placements.

Impact players are most important to a team and a recruiter when a defined market-place requires a specific skill set. My preference is to go to the market with three impact players whom I present in distinct ways. One is the main focus, another is one level above, and the third is one level below. If the organization has a need for that type of talent, chances are good I will get send-outs based on a quick conversation.

Develop your paper route, but on a larger scale.

Define a marketplace of 500 to 3,000 potential clients, and take your impact players to them. Not just once, but routinely. Develop a “paper route:” share the top talent in your specialty with them over and over again. Think of a hometown newspaper route. The paperboy delivers papers to the same houses every day. His customers get to know him, and most become fond of him. You need to develop that same relationship with your potential clients.

Touch every one of them every 60 to 90 days. Not all of your prospects will have a need for the talent you present in your first call. Don’t let that discourage you. As you get to know them, you’ll have a better idea of what they want so you can bring value to the table the next time you talk. By the second, third, or fourth “delivery,” you’ll be amazed at the send-outs you get and the placements that follow. Never get too busy to give personal attention – it pays big dividends.

Don’t forget your candidates!

Establish regular contact with your candidate database. Think of it as a paper route for 2007. It’s a new concept to many, but it’s an exciting frontier for recruiters to explore, another way to add value to your candidate pool so when they’re ready to make a change, they automatically think of you.

Top candidates need to be touched once every 60 to 90 days by you or your firm. Many recruiters are getting creative in their approach to this, sending out mass emails, newsletters, or announcements, and making direct calls. Remember, it will always be the recruiter who can deliver the best talent who will win. Market to your candidate database, build your brand identity with them, and show them how you can help them achieve their career goals.

The best recruiters in this tight market succeed through a combination of time-tested recruiting truths and innovative solutions that benefit both client and candidate. Yes, we’re faced with a talent crisis, but who is better positioned to capitalize on it than talent agents – people with a real understanding of the market? Success is ours for the taking as long as we’ve put into place real strategies for dealing with talent-pool trends.

Next Month: The second in Jon Bartos’s series of articles focusing on the five major trends affecting business today, and how to turn them to your advantage: “The Talent Crisis, Part Two: The Multigenerational Workforce and the Unique Challenges (and Opportunities) It Presents for Recruiters Everywhere.”

Jon Bartos is a premier speaker, writer, and consultant on all aspects of human capital. As CEO of Jonathan Scott International in Mason, Ohio, he has achieved industry-leading success. He is one of an elite group of executive recruiters who bill on average over $1 million annually. Since 1999, he has achieved over $9 million in cash-in on his personal desk performance. Jon has also established JSI as a top 10% executive search firm. The office has won 15 international awards in the MRI franchise system, including International Billing Manager of the Year and Top 10 SC Office. Jon runs an executive-coaching program for recruiters and recruiting managers called “Magnum Program.” He also hosts a career-focused talk show on Fox radio, Talent Wins with Jon Bartos, Your Personal Career Coach. Are you ready to take your company or career to the next level? Jon can be reached at (513) 701-5910, jon@jonathan, or

Jon Bartos is a premier writer, speaker, and consultant on all aspects of human capital and achievement. As president and CEO of Jonathan Scott International, he has achieved industry-leading success. He is one of an elite group of executive recruiters who have billed over $1 million annually. In a 10-year period from 1999 to 2009, he cashed in over $10 million in personal production. He has established Jonathan Scott International as a top 10% executive search and contract staffing firm. The office has won over 17 international awards in the MRI Network, including International Billing Manager of the Year and Top 10 SC Office. He also competes nationally in Masters Track and Field and is a four-time national champion in the Pole Vault. To help recruiters reach their potential, he developed the RPM Dashboard, a total revenue performance management system for the recruiting industry that allows offices and individuals to set goals, get a series of weekly dashboard views of performance metrics and receive specific suggestions for immediate improvement of critical areas. Contact Jon at 513-701-5910 or